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This guest post is written by Natalie Ellis. Natalie is the co-founder of LunaRegina.com. With a passion to make balanced homemade meals an easier choice than fast foods for everyone, Natalie loves sharing her cooking tips, easy healthy recipes, as well as her reviews of smart kitchen tools to turn the odd jobs into a bliss for the busy home cooks. Follow Natalie on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.
Pushing you diet towards a “greener” direction is never a bad idea. Fruits and vegetables are, to current knowledge, the only sources of dietary fiber, which is one of the macronutrients that human needs.
However, in modern days, to consume plant produce without any cautions is too risky.
If we all had our own organic gardens where we can keep watch on the production, that would be the dream. But that is simply not likely.
Store bought veggies and fruits are safe to a certain extent. However, the possibility of bacteria and remaining pesticides are still there, enough for us to be concerned.
Even if they are pre-washed and packaged under ideal conditions, they can still be contaminated unless you’re careful.
So here is a few things that we should all keep in mind when it comes to handling vegetables and fruits prior to consumption.
Of course, it’s just common sense to wash before eating or storing them away.
Apart from the usual “rinse under running water” advice, there are several additional points that we should adopt into our kitchen sink routines.
- Keep rubbing: sometimes, just putting them under running water does not do the trick. Instead, also gently rubbing your produce gives extra cleansing effects (NO NEED FOR A PRODUCE WASH).
- Extra force on firm produce: with melons, cucumbers and others similar veggies and fruities, scrubbing them with a clean vegetable brush will definitely help.
- Dryness is key: it is not recommended to keep produce damp as bacteria and contaminants can cling onto the surface more easily. ALWAYS dry vegetables and fruits with a clean cloth or paper towel.
It’s totally a good habit to clean your produce.
Yet, there are still many saying that even though they washed them, they’d still get sick. So they turned to produce washes or they just slightly rinsed and cooked everything, which sure is safer; still, how exactly are we supposed to cook all fruits?
It’s not a matter of whether we wash them or not. Rather, it’s the matter of how THOROUGHLY they are washed and which precautions are taken.
It may occupy more time to do so. Nonetheless, the question is: how safe do you want to be?
Afterall, the point of washing vegetables and fruits is to make sure that they are harmless to consume. Therefore, a little bit of extra insurance is not at all a stretch.
1. Mind your water supply
If our water is not clean, then almost nothing in our house is safe to consume.
This should be the first and foremost concern, especially with the outburst of E.coli in the UK and in the US recently.
E.coli can be found in our water if it is not monitored closely by us or by our water companies. By the time someone in our families gets infected, it’s too late.
Instead, we should take the initiatives. Test our water regularly, install a water filtration system (mostly for the kitchen sink), etc. Don’t rely on chance when our own health is on the line.
2. Mind the fresh produce and leafy greens
Although packaged foods are with lower food safety risks, I personally still prefer fresh produce. I’ll get to pick and choose and decide which way I want to prepare my food or healthy snacks.
Unfortunately, for those who choose fresh fruits and vegs over packaged ones like me, the risks are higher and we have to clean them ourselves.
But worry not, I’m still alive and well after quite a while of dealing with fresh buys. So, as long as you pay attention to these few things, you are good to go.
- Don’t pick the ones that are damaged or bruised, or simply not looking fresh.
- If your collection at hands are slim then remember to cut off those parts.
- The outermost leaves of leafy greens like cabbage or lettuce are, for most of the time, dirty and not worth the effort. Just take them off and throw them away.
- Leafy greens like celery or napa cabbage, because of their structures, are harder to be cleaned if we not attentive. Take them apart and wash carefully.
*note: with the types of leafy greens that are commonly eaten raw, we should be extra thorough at washing them. Compared to other types that are usually cooked, ingredients of a salad or coleslaw are more likely to be health threatening.
3. Mind the labels
Vegetables and fruits marked “pre-washed” or “ready to eat” have already been dealt with under optimal conditions and are safe for consumption.
There are no needs to wash them again. If we do so, we only increase the chance of contamination by exposing it to environmental contact.
Keep them in our fridges and only cut them out when we need to prepare or eat them.
4. Mind the kitchen implements
After making sure that our produce are cleaned and ready to serve, there’s still a long way for them before they can settle in our belly.
Normally, we have to prepare them first. Peeling, slicing and putting/setting them into a bowl or or onto a plate are all typical steps. There’s just too much contact.
The more contact there is, the more chances for bacteria to latch on.
In addition to washing the veggies and fruities, we should also ensure that our utensils, cutleries and tablewares are all properly cleaned.
*note: if you plan to peel fruits with the same knife that you use to cut them, wash the fruits first. If you don’t, bacteria from the skin may travel to the knife, and you know what’s next.
5. Mind the hands
This is overall a good advice in various aspects as our hands come into contact with numerous impurities throughout the day.
To wash our hands whenever we’ve got the chance is not a bad habit to have. It’s particularly beneficial to do so around our produce, or just food in general.
In the preparation process, besides the kitchen implements, our hands are still the main tools. Thus, it is almost useless washing everything if we don’t wash our hands first.
In Conclusion …
So, ALWAYS wash your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds, and with warm water if you are going the extra miles, to properly rid all bacteria and possible harmful agents.